Harry Startup laughs when he tells the story of an Eastern historian who wrote to the Provo Library for information about his family business, the Startup Candy Co.

The historian had amassed a large collection of old candy bar wrappers and wanted documentation for some of his oldest wrappers. "He thought we were out of business," Harry Startup said.That is understandable. Not many Utah businesses have been around for more than 120 years. The original Startup Candy Co. was established in London, England, in 1823 but moved to Salt Lake City with William and Hagar Startup in 1869.

The company subsequently moved to its current location in Provo in 1875, where the Startups produced the United States' first candy bar, named the Opera Bar.

Harry's son John gave the historian a call to explain that, five generations later, the Startup Candy Co. is alive and well.

"I said `This is John Startup from the Startup Candy Co.' He said `Huh?' " John Startup said. The two have continued their correspondence, and the Startups are helping the historian on other research, this time involving the Startups' involvement with the early Coca-Cola company.

"In the early days, my father and his brothers were the first distributors of Coca-Cola in this area. They got to using the syrup in candy bars and magnolias (a Startup specialty)," Harry said.

The Startups even used the Coca-Cola name in some of their products, including a Coca-Cola candy bar named the Devil Dog bar.

When the Coca-Cola company was sold to new owners, an injunction was filed to stop the Startups from using the Coca-Cola name, Harry said.

The court decided that the Startups had partial ownership in the Coca-Cola name because they had been using the name for a long enough time without any objection from Coca-Cola. The Startups eventually settled out of court and gave up all rights to the Coca-Cola name.

"There are times when I wish we had kept our share in that name," Harry said.

At its peak, the Startup Candy Co. employed more than 175 people and covered half a city block. The main factory was housed in what is now the A and Y Lumber Co., 590 S. 100 West. But in the middle of the Great Depression, owner Walter Startup, Harry's father, lost the company, the buildings and the factory.

After a bit of work, the Startups were able to purchase one building back - the packing and box house - and business resumed on a much smaller scale.

In addition to the two Startups, the factory employs two other people: Ava Winterton, who has been hand dipping chocolates for the past 30 years; and Glen Jenkins, who began producing the company's Jumbo Pop suckers last year.

Although business is growing, John Startup does not believe the company will ever get as big as it was in his great-grandfather's day.

"I don't think it's needful," he said.

The company has a retail store on University Avenue in Provo and sells to candy outlets in Utah, Idaho and Arizona.

"Now there is quite a bit of competition in the candy business, but competition doesn't bother us because we put out a good, quality product," Harry Startup said.

The company is one of only three in the United States that makes clear toys - hollow, molded sugar candy figures - and is the only company to make magnolias.

Magnolias are small, flavor-filled candies that taste like flowers. The forerunners to breath mints, magnolias come in carnation, rose, jasmine, violet and cashew flavors.

"A lot of companies would like to get their hands on how we make magnolias," John Startup said.

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Historic roots

A plaque outside the Startup Candy Co. factory, donated by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in 1969, reads:

"In 1868 William D. Startup brought across the Plains the tools of candymaking: scales, iron edging bars, drop machines, shears and hooks. After pursuing his profession in Salt Lake City, he moved to Provo and built the first candy factory in 1875. Following his death in 1878, his widow, Hagar, continued the business for 10 years. In 1895 her sons William, Walter and George became owners. The original machinery is preserved at the present factory."

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